‘Portrait of Zuma is below the belt’

Artist Brett Murray's The Spear has offended the ANC. Image: Courtesy of the Artist and the Goodman Gallery

Artist Brett Murray's The Spear has offended the ANC. Image: Courtesy of the Artist and the Goodman Gallery

Published May 18, 2012


The ANC is outraged at a portrait that shows President Jacob Zuma, in the pose of Lenin, with his genitals hanging out. And the party is headed to court to force the artist Brett Murray, the Goodman Gallery and the City Press newspaper to remove the portrait.

The Goodman Gallery said Murray will not comment and will let the art “speak for itself”.

The 1.85m-high piece, priced at R136 000 and titled The Spear, was first reported on by City Press and a picture of the portrait was printed and displayed on its website.

“The African National Congress is extremely disturbed and outraged by the distasteful and indecent manner in which Brett Murray and the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg is displaying the person of Comrade President Jacob Zuma,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said.

City Press executive editor Fikile Ntsikelelo-Moya said the newspaper would not be removing the portrait because of the ANC’s demands.

“We will respond to court papers when served. The courts will make a decision and we’ll abide by the court ruling,” Moya said.

Mthembu said: “This disgusting and unfortunate display of the president was brought to our attention by one of the media houses. We have this morning instructed our lawyers to approach our courts to compel Brett Murray and Goodman Gallery to remove the portrait from display as well as from their website and destroy all printed promotional material.

“We have also detected that this distasteful and vulgar portrait of the president has been displayed on a weekend newspaper and its website.

“We again have instructed our lawyers to request the said newspaper to remove the portrait from their website.”

He added that it is the ANC’s view “that the image and the dignity of our president as both president of the ANC, president of the republic and as a human being has been dented by this so-called piece of art by Brett Murray at Goodman Gallery”.

“We are also of the view that this distasteful depiction of the president has violated his individual right to dignity as contained in the constitution of our country.

“The same gallery has displayed the logo of the ANC without the permission of the ANC, with the inscription ‘FOR SALE’ on it. Both these portraits are a clear calculation to dismember and denigrate the symbols and the representative of the ANC, chief amongst them, the president of the ANC,” he said.

Mthembu said the ANC believed in freedom of the press and artistic expression.

“The vulgar portrait and the dismembering of the ANC logo by Brett Murray is an abuse of freedom of artistic expression and an acute violation of our constitution, apart from being defamatory.”

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